Why Is Chess Separated By Gender? Raising the Bar For Women In Chess

Chess Guides / By Andrew Hercules

Chess isn’t necessarily separated by gender since women do have the option to play together with men in absolute tournaments. The reason for a gender split in chess is to encourage more women to compete as men greatly outweigh women at all levels of competitive chess. Sometimes a woman playing in an absolute tournament can easily feel out of place if there is a lack of female presence.

Male Dominance In Chess

Unlike other sports where physical prowess determines the outcome you would think that chess would allow men and women to compete at an equal level. Shockingly, males dominate the sports of chess. There are no women among the world’s top 100 players as to date. The Women’s World Champion, Ju Wenjun has a numerical rating of 2500 compared with a rating of 2800 for Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion. Professional chess players consider a Grandmaster to be a “class” better than a Grandmaster with 50 fewer rating points. What makes Magnus Carlsen six “classes” better than Wenjun? I don’t know. I can only say that so complete is male domination of the chess world that very few women has earned the Grandmaster title.

Some couple years back, in an insult to women everywhere, FIDE simply lowered the performance level required for women to earn titles, thereby adding a new twist to the mysterious world of chess. (FIDE is an acronym for Federation Internationale des Echecs, the international chess federation). Women can now earn Female Grandmaster (FGM) and Female International Master (FIM) titles.

The male dominance in chess is so great that when authors are writing chess books, they refer to all chess players as he. While the exclusive use of such pronoun may seem offensive, it does reflect the current reality of the chess world. I encourage female chess players everywhere to change that reality.

How Can Female Players Raise The Bar In Chess?

1. Doing Away With Women’s Titles

 If we plan to get women competing at the top in chess, we must first completely discard of women’s titles. They need to jump through all the same hoops men do, because if they just get free cookies now and then, they’re not going to have as much incentive to improve. By doing a way with women’s titles, it will force women to raise the level of their game in order to compete.

2. Set A Higher Goal

If women are to compete with men equally, they should have the self-confidence that they are as good as male players, but only if they are willing to work and take it seriously as much as male players. If females should raise their standards, they would definitely reach higher.

3. Let them compete with men ONLY

Retaining women’s tournament will only keep females back further from achieving success in chess at the top level. Think about it, there are plenty of women’s colleges, but graduates don’t hold women’s Ph.D.s.

4. Develop enthusiasm from an early age

There is not enough parents encouraging their young daughters to play chess because of the stigma that chess is a gentleman’s game. Most times when you visit camps for children, they are filled with zealous 12 year old boys who are extremely hyped and excited to play with their friends. On the other hand, there isn’t a big enough fire being lit when it comes to the level of enthusiasm for young females. All that must change if we stand a chance of conquering this gender split in chess.

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 3 Reasons Why Chess is Male Dominated


1. Men love war!

When it comes to war, men are more suited than women to have such encounters due to their fighting spirit and physical prowess. In a game of chess, we have two armies going into combat with the hopes of taking down the enemy monarch. This war-like character of chess could be the reason why males are attracted to the game more than females.

2. The Enthusiasm and Commitment is greater among males

Whenever you are passionate about something, you tend to outperform others because you work even harder and are more dedicated. This reasoning can be linked to why males dominate chess. Females aren’t driven to play chess maybe due to history and cultural norms prevailing. Therefore, a level of commitment is NOT present among females to excel at the top level as their male counterpart

3. Males are more encourage to play chess by their parents

This is a big reason. Parents have everything to do with the development of a child. If we could get more mothers and fathers registering their daughters into training camps and tournaments, we would have a huge spike in performance for females all over the world. Unfortunately, Chess is seen as a gentleman’s sport and so the mass of parents will most likely encourage their sons to participate because of this cultural norm.

Conclusion – Is There a Biological Factor?

We know for a fact that men are at an advantage physically and so it makes sense to have a gender divide in sports such has hockey or track and field as men are biologically bigger and stronger. But does biology play any part in chess? If chess is a game of the mind, shouldn’t women be excelling at the same level as men?

Well, some people may argue that chess is physically demanding, and even though sitting in a chair for long hours does constitute some physical exertion, there is absolutely NOT a biological factor that goes into the result of a male competing with a female. For example, Judit Polgar was the first #1 woman to beat the #1 man of the same sport. She beat Garry Kasparov in a Ruy Lopez Berlin Defence game back in 2002. Do you think that biology had any part to do with the results? Of course not.

In summary, if we want to see positive changes in women’s performance in chess, we have to get their self confidence up, raise their standards, eliminate second place trophies, get rid of stigmatism and develop enthusiasm from an early age.

Andrew Hercules

Hercules Chess, launched in 2020, is a website that teaches you about chess. We started as a chess blog and became a chess training platform in early 2022.

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